Bad starts at home can be overcome sometimes in high school football.

But bad starts on the road? That only leads to a bad outcome.

The Wildkits are now 1-3 after Thursday night’s 49-20 loss in Palatine. Credit: Travis Muir

A lost fumble, penalties and dropped passes added up to a 21-0 deficit in the first quarter for Evanston’s floundering boys football team Thursday night at Palatine, and the Pirates pulled away for a lopsided 49-20 victory behind a record performance from running back Dominik Ball.

The Wildkits dropped their third straight contest and will take a 1-3 overall record into next week’s Central Suburban League South division opener against winless Glenbrook South.

Ball, a Tulane University recruit, turned in the best performance by an opposing back since Mike Burzawa took over as Evanston’s head coach – and perhaps one of the best by a foe in program history. He rushed for four touchdowns, caught a touchdown pass and carried 24 times for a school record 296 yards to lift the Pirates to 2-2 on the year.

Seven straight carries

ETHS fans might have wondered why Ball was still in the backfield with 11 minutes left and Palatine already ahead by five touchdowns. He finished off his record night with seven straight carries against Evanston’s second line defense, but no one could really accuse the Pirates of running up the score.

Palatine running back Dominik Ball crosses the goal line on Thursday, Sept. 14, for one of the five touchdowns he scored in Palatine’s 56-20 victory over ETHS. Credit: Murat Philippe

Evanston’s first line defense wasn’t really any tougher on the elusive Ball than the backups.

“That No. 7 is a helluva back,” said Burzawa, a former All-State running back himself. “We’d have him stopped in the backfield and he’d cut back all the way across the grain, get to the second level and he was gone. We weren’t able to stop him.

“I thought we really killed ourselves in that first quarter with penalties and dropped balls. We didn’t play fundamentally sound football as a group in that first quarter, and the first quarter when you’re on the road is always critical. We jumped offside two or three times and we lacked execution in all phases of the game.

“We did show some growth and I still believe in this team. I’m seeing toughness that I like to see and I’m happy about the way we battled and fought. We still have a lot of football to play, and next week is a new beginning for us.”

Livatino 13 of 20 in the air

Ball, in a great impersonation of a ghost with Halloween still a month away, scored on TD runs of 11, 36 and 60 yards in the first quarter alone. By halftime he had piled up 201 yards on the ground, including another touchdown burst of 39 yards.

Evanston’s only score came on a 17-yard pass from Colin Livatino (13-of-20 passing for 112 yards, one interception) to Emmett Robinson in the second quarter.

Emmett Robinson makes a reception for a touchdown in the second quarter of the ETHS game vs. Palatine on Sept. 14, 2023. Credit: Murat Philippe

Ball slipped out of the backfield to score his fifth touchdown of the night, on an 8-yard pass from Tommy Elter, and you could give the Pirates’ star partial credit for another score even though he didn’t touch the ball himself. A play-action fake set up Elter’s 42-yard toss for a TD to Tyson Moorer in the third quarter.

Highlights for the Wildkits included the first varsity touchdowns scored in their respective careers by juniors Enijel Shelton and Daryl Harmon.

ETHS quarterback Colin Livatino dashes down the sidelines during Thursday’s game against Palatine. Credit: Murat Philippe

Shelton did the heavy lifting on an 80-yard march that began in the third quarter, as his punishing physical style eventually produced a 5-yard scoring run. The 5-foot-8, 180-pounder finished with seven carries for 61 yards.

Harmon, the No. 2 quarterback, led the visitors on an eight-play, 80-yard scoring drive in the final minutes. He plowed into the end zone from the 4-yard-line with just 25 second left and was credited with 75 yards on the ground on five carries.

Palatine rolled up 313 yards rushing compared with 182 for ETHS.

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